When it comes to dating there is no denying that it can be tough out there and I can’t decide whether the advent of the internet has simplified things or made them more complicated. On the one hand, you can now be very forward about what you want, but then it is harder to gauge potential chemistry with the people you meet. When it comes to being forward there is definitely an advantage in that you no longer have to second-guess people or figure out what they are looking for – unless they maintain a particularly vague profile.
Almost simultaneously with my decision to create a new OkCupid profile I went to stay with my artist grandmother and together we watched the first episode of In The Best Possible Taste, a program in which Grayson Perry explores the relationship between class and taste. The show was divided into three episodes – Working Class, Middle Class, Upper Class – and returning home I watched the other two and was reminded that although I might not be quite so cynical as some of the people in the program, I am most definitely middle class.
Whilst I would never purposefully exclude anyone from my life or veto someone as a potential romantic partner right off the bat just because of class, I have the wherewithal to recognise that there is definitely a correlation between class and who I am attracted to. When I mentioned to a few friends that I worried about class when online dating, I received some shock and a little outrage, the kind of which reminded of the backlash I have seen racism and sexism receive. Where I felt I was being honest about who I find attractive, they felt that I was being exclusive.
With the PC police ever biting at our heels it is becoming increasingly difficult to speak the truth. There are no hard and fast rules about attraction, but we should certainly be able to say “this does it for me; this doesn’t”. You cannot use sexual attraction as a measure of someone’s acceptance. I am not particularly attracted to girls; it doesn’t mean I think girls are less worthy or that I don’t get on with them in other dynamics, it just means the thought of sleeping with a girl doesn’t necessarily turn me on. There are exceptions to that rule, but it is a trend in my attraction none the less. Likewise, I am not particularly attracted to people of certain races. This is not a sign of racism; it is just a sign that I know myself.
When I started thinking about this, I realised that although we rarely talk about it, it is true that most people date within their own race and, back to my point, their own class. I doubt many people go out specifically looking for someone who is in the same social class as them, but from what I’ve observed, most end up with people similar to themselves. There is nothing wrong with that. So long as we aren’t persecuting people who do date outside of their apparent circles, then being honest about our own attraction is just that: honesty.
So, how does this apply to online dating? It can be hard to gauge someone’s social class via an online profile, and you might argue that it’s not important. And for many people it really isn’t important. But personally I have to be honest that the things I find attractive are predominantly middle class. I would never turn someone down because they weren’t middle class, but I would turn someone down if I didn’t like the sound of their voice, and the voices that I find most attractive tend to be middle class. This has nothing to do with me wanting to remain in my own social class, it is simply that for whatever culmination of reasons (probably my background and my education), something in me associates those middle class attributes with attractiveness. I’ll admit it is a tentative distinction, but it is not intended to be exclusive. I have no desire whatsoever to cut down the number of my potential romantic partners. But there you go.
I suppose, really, this somewhat aimless piece comes to two conclusions. One is slightly more superficial, so I’ll go with that first. If you are dating online and you find yourself a little too aware of your class and what you really are attracted to in that arena, make sure you talk to potential dates on the phone before you meet them. There is a huge amount you can learn about someone by hearing their voice. So many people adopt completely different tones when they are writing compared with when they are speaking.
But seriously, my real conclusion is this: being honest about what we are attracted to, be it race or age or class or body weight! – it is not shallow to say you won’t date someone who’s overweight if what you’re attracted to is really slim, slender bodies – is just good sense. The more truth we have in relationships and the world in general, the better. The more explicit we are about what we want and how our attraction works, the more likely we are to get it. And attraction is not something we manufacture for ourselves; it is something that becomes ingrained in us. Therefore no one should be penalised for being open about what does it for them, be it kinks or race or gender or class.
And perhaps most obviously, but also most importantly, we need to keep in mind that sexual attraction does not equate social acceptance.